Let me begin by giving some background before I go into telling of my experience today at presiding over the communion table. I do this because the background information directly relates to what occurred today.
Several years ago, I was approached and asked whether I wanted to “do the communion table” or “do the call to worship.” At the time, I knew that the Call to Worship was just someone standing up and welcoming any visitors to the worship service. Then that person would give a two or three minute recitation of something they had prepared in advance with the intent to take everyone’s minds off of the past week’s events and get them to begin focusing on worshiping God.
I also knew that the communion table duty involved handling those trays with small cups of grape juice, and I had a horrible premonition that I would be likely to spill such all over the place if not all over someone. So, to avoid the premonition, I readily accepted the offer to do the “Call to Worship.”
So, that week I considered a number of topics to speak about for the Call to Worship and towards the end of the week, I had created a pretty good outline of the points I wanted to bring up in my recitation. I had even rehearsed the whole spiel in my mind and felt pretty comfortable with what I was going to say.
Sunday came and with no concerns at all, we attended the Bible study hour and as usual, I participated with the discussions in the class. Keep in mind that at this time in my life, I am in my mid 50’s, so it had never been a problem for me to express myself in classroom settings and training sessions at work.
The worship hour arrived and as the other men are preparing to go to their places for the communion part of worship, I walked up the 4 or 5 steps to the stage to do my prepared statements. I must confess that at the time, I did this with some dread, meaning that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but it was only a wee bit of dreading the act.
I walked to the podium, opened my bible to the scriptures that I was going to read in my presentation, laid out the outline just above my Bible, and then I looked up. Instantly, I sensed total, abject fear in what I was about to do, and to do it in front of a lot (roughly 300) of people.
Later, Jo told me that as I looked up and out at the congregation, I turned as white as a sheet, and that she literally saw the blood drain out of my face. With a feeling of horror, I finally looked down at my outline and began to follow it, but only by the force of my will was I able to get through the process. I did the welcome to visitors, did my presentation and scripture reading, and then offered up a prayer for the congregation.
After I finished, I immediately picked up my outline and bible and stepped away from the podium and went down the steps from the stage. As quickly as possible (without running) I went out of the auditorium and out the front doors of the church building. Just outside the doors is where Jo found me after a couple of minutes. She KNEW that I had just experienced a traumatic event and asked me if I was all right. I could barely answer her because I was STILL trying to suck in all the oxygen that I could.
As a man in my mid 50’s, I had never experienced fear such as I did that day. None of my time in the military, nor all the jobs that I did in dangerous situations had ever caused such a reaction in me as I felt that day. I am not afraid of heights, bees, wasps, rattlesnakes, spiders, or even bigger animals, but I now find that I am afraid of speaking to large numbers of people.
Now, I’ll get back to the present and a relating of the events of today. At about midnight last night, I sat down and wrote out roughly what I wanted to say as I officiated at the communion table this morning. Once I was content with what I had written, I placed it in my Bible with all my other papers and went to bed.
This morning, we got up and drove over to Mustang, which is now roughly 30 miles from where we live. As we went in to sit down for the Bible study hour, I picked up my Bible and instantly felt that something was wrong. I opened the cover and there were no papers there. It flashed into my mind that I had the Bible upside down and had just opened the back cover instead of the front one.
My papers were gone, including the rough outline of my prepared remarks. Being certain that I had not inadvertently dropped the papers as we walked into church, I began to panic. My whole intent of having things written down is that I now have some concerns that if I don’t write things down, I’ll forget some details that I needed to remember.
Jo again instantly recognized that I was somewhat agitated and asked me if anything was wrong. I asked her if she might have taken some papers out of my Bible. Guess what??? Considering that she NEVER takes papers from my Bible, I hadn’t thought of that as a real possibility. Well, after about 42 ½ years of marriage, I’m still being surprised by this woman. She had felt that there was an unusually large group of bulky papers and she decided that she would remove some from hers and mine.
Fortunately, I had that hour to sort of piece together what my thoughts had been from the night before, and I went into the worship service and down to the front with less trepidation as to what disaster might be about to befall me.
While my voice still cracked, and my mind still raced at seeing all of those faces looking right at me, I did manage to get through it all. After services, there were two or three that stopped me and spoke of how well I had done and complemented me on what I had said.
If they only knew of that huge gorilla that hangs on my back when I get up in front of the congregation, they might have an idea of the ordeal that I endured. But, I’ll bet that Jo never takes papers out of my Bible again. What do you think?